Dr. Fernandez to become dean in Texas


Dr. Francisco Fernandez, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences in the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, has been named the founding dean of the School of Medicine at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

The University of Texas System announced Dr. Fernandez’ appointment to lead the new medical school Friday.

“It’s an absolutely fantastic opportunity,” Dr. Fernandez said Friday. “There will be lots of challenges, but it’s going to be a great opportunity to make a real difference in medical education in an underserved area of the country. So I’m absolutely ecstatic about that.”

“We are proud to welcome Dr. Francisco Fernandez back to The University of Texas family in the historic role of founding dean of the Rio Grande Valley’s own medical school,” said Dr. Francisco G. Cigarroa, chancellor of The University of Texas System. “We are grateful to the committee members who conducted an extensive national search for this eminently well-qualified psychiatrist, neuroscientist and leader, and we look forward to the extremely important role he will play in the medical school’s formative years.”

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At USF Health, Donna Petersen, interim senior vice president of USF Health and dean of the College of Public Health, congratulated Dr. Fernandez on his new role.

“We are so proud that one of our own has been identified as the leader of a new type of medical school,” said Petersen, ScD, MHS, CPH. “We’re sure USF Health and our model of innovation will prepare Frank Fernandez to lead a new model of health education.”

Dr. Harry van Loveren, interim dean of the Morsani College of Medicine and chair of the Department of Neurosurgery, also had kind words for Dr. Fernandez.

“Much as we hate to see Frank go, we’re so proud of this honor that’s been bestowed upon him,’’ Dr. van Loveren said. “And with input of the faculty, we’ll seek a way forward” for the psychiatry department.

Dr. Fernandez is taking on a leadership role at what will be not just a new medical school, but a new university. The campuses of UT Brownsville, UT Pan American and the Regional Academic Health Center of the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio are being combined to form the new UT Rio Grande Valley. UT plans for undergraduate students to enroll in fall 2015 and for the first medical school class to start in fall 2016.

Dr. Fernandez joined USF Health as psychiatry chair in 2002. He is deeply grateful to USF Health, he said Friday. He’s made many friends, and what he has learned here has prepared him for this next step.

“Every single process and every single mission has educated me for the challenges I’m going to find ahead,” he said. “Everything that USF Health stands for in terms of access, quality, safety, financial sustainability, education, science and a humanitarian focus: these are the critical success factors to get this (new medical school) up and running.”

Dr. Fernandez also was in Texas from 1984 to 1997 as a faculty member at UT MD Anderson Cancer Center and Baylor College of Medicine. He joined Loyola University of Chicago in 1997.

He will always have fond memories of Tampa, Dr. Fernandez said Friday.

“Such an enormous camaraderie exists across the campus here,” Dr. Fernandez said. “Colleagues are collaborative and cooperative, but also friends. I will miss everybody dearly. There will always be a spot in my heart for Tampa and the university.”